INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and new general manager Koby Altman called Kyrie Irving‘s reported trade request to the Cavs’ brass several weeks ago a “fluid situation” and would not say if they indeed plan to deal the four-time All-Star.
“He’s a core piece of what we’ve done,” said Gilbert at Altman’s introductory press conference Wednesday. “Kyrie is a tremendous player. He has made great contributions to this franchise and we enjoy him as a player and we’re going to keep this stuff in house in terms of what was said in those meetings, but he continues to be a core piece of who we are and what we do.”
Gilbert and Altman would not even confirm that the trade request even occurred, even though it’s been widely reported since ESPN’s Brian Windhorst broke the news last Friday. When pressed if Irving would still be with the team when training camp for the 2017-18 season opens up September 25th, Gilbert made it sound like Cleveland plans to hold on to the point guard it drafted with the No. 1 pick in 2011.
“Right now Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year,” Gilbert said, referring to Irving’s player option for 2019-20. “As of now he’s one of our best players and sure, we expect him to be in camp.”
Whether it was denial on the part of the Cavs’ decision makers or simply an optimistic outlook that the relationship between LeBron James and Irving can be salvaged at this point despite reports of Irving’s desire to grow outside the four-time MVP’s overbearing shadow, they did not reject the notion of James and Irving both playing together next year.
“I think a lot of it has been overblown,” Altman said. “I think the people who are in this building every day haven’t seen any of that animosity. This is, along with Kevin Love, this is a group that got us to three straight Finals and won an NBA championship together. They play great together on the floor and a lot of that I do think is overblown. We haven’t seen a lot of that ‘animosity’ that’s been out there in the media.”
Multiple Cavs players have told ESPN they are hopeful that there is a reconciliation of sorts between James and Irving this summer and the team stays together as currently constructed. Gilbert, who again, only would confirm that “several scenarios” were discussed between him, Irving and Irving’s agent, Jeff Wechsler, on July 7th, might have unintentionally confirmed the trade request by comparing Irving to Kobe Bryant.
“I think you also have to look at history sometimes,” Gilbert said. “The other Kobe, not this Kobe, Kobe Bryant, I think there was a time (in the summer of 2007) he was calling radio stations and saying he was demanding to be traded and won two or three championships after that point. Things happen and you never know. I’m not saying that happens here. The possibilities of what will happen is wide and it’s not just one path or one track.”
One thing Gilbert would say definitively is he has confidence in the state of his franchise, despite the last six weeks that has seen the Cavs lose the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in five games; part ways with GM David Griffin; fail to land Chauncey Billups after courting him for a front office position; have a trade with the Indiana Pacers for Paul George fall apart at the finish line; and now the Irving situation.
“I believe we’re going to be competing for championships for a long period of time,” Gilbert said. “I really do. And especially this year coming up. And we’re not done yet. We’re not done yet.”
The question hanging over the Cavs, however, is when will James be done with them? The superstar forward can opt out of his contract to become a free agent next summer. Gilbert and Altman painted James as a happy camper.
“LeBron has been as helpful as he’s ever been,” Gilbert said. “He’s active and helped with Derrick Rose and that’s why Derrick Rose has signed here and he’s been active, he’s been responsive. … That hunger is as strong as I’ve ever seen.”
And Altman expressed confidence that the man he deems the “best player in the world” remains on board with the Cavs.
“LeBron remains deeply committed to this organization,” Altman said. “He remains deeply committed to this team and deeply committed to this city. He has deep roots to this city. And it means a lot to him to be here and compete for championships for years to come. That’s his goal, and so we have shared goals. We have a shared vision.”